The Cape’s secret garden

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

When ERA Real Estates Jeffreys Bay agent and PrivateProperty.co.za advertiser Albe Van der Westhuyzen first arrived in the Tsitsikamma, he spent huge amounts of his time driving around to meet the people and talk to the locals.

“In fact we did a proper survey of the area, because I wanted to know what it has to offer, and why people would invest here,” he said. “I came from Western Cape, and I didn’t know anything when I started.”

It’s an example which any potential investor could take to heart.

The Tsitsikamma area – centred on Tsitsikamma Village (about 70 km east of Plettenberg Bay, and 160 km west of Port Elizabeth) – truly is the garden of the Garden Route. This is where nature has lavished on the landscape her most prodigious gifts for beauty: the high Outeniqua Mountains, the narrow gorges (Storms River, Bloukrans – rivers whose names have become etched deep into the fabric of South Africa’s tourism marketing narrative), the enduring mystery of the yellowwood and stinkwood forests, and the spectacular, rocky coastline whose ocean is so rich in its diversity of life, so precious to the international community, that it was declared Africa’s first Marine Protected Area back in 1964.

Large parts of this natural garden are managed by SANParks – the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park encompasses more than 80 kilometres of the seashore, as well as significant areas of forest and fynbos – and this is appropriate as it’s nature that’s the great attraction of the region.

The local economy is small, and business is confined largely to tourism and farming (and the two sometimes meet quite successfully, as at Forest Ferns The Fernery Lodge and Chalets).

The area is suitable to timber, beef, dairy, and cut flowers – while the local tourism industry has made the best use of the drama of the landscape through products like Storms River Adventure’s Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours, Face Adrenalin’s bungee jumping off the Bloukrans Bridge, the Oudebosch Farm Stall – which also serves as a local info centre – and accommodation at places like the Tsitsikamma Village Inn and At The Woods Guesthouse.

And, of course, according to Albe, this makes the Tsitsikamma a very desirable destination, and one for which he and other agents in the area receive numerous enquiries. But.

“Investors need to know that while prices in the area seem to have fallen in the last year, it also seems that some sellers aren’t in touch with this trend – so they’re not realising the prices they want.”

Nevertheless, he said, the Tsitsikamma offers a good stock of vacant land, small-holdings, and farms – and these are the types of properties most buyers are after.

“We’re getting enquiries from artists and writers, from pensioners from elsewhere in the country, and from successful businesspeople looking for a peaceful, quiet, quality life – and I know of a number of people from Gauteng and Northern Province who run their businesses from here via the Internet.”

In terms of new directions, Albe sees a number of opportunities.

“I think there’s a shortage of affordable accommodation, and a need for a tour guide equipped with a mini bus to show small groups and families around.

“And there’s most certainly a shortage of dams where fishermen can hunt for bass – one of the most exciting fresh water sporting fishes on the planet.”

Albe Van der Westhuyzen said that his focus and drive is always “to investigate on behalf of my clients, and to respond to their requests and needs.” He currently has 47 investment opportunities listed with PrivateProperty.co.za.

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